Real women work from home

Flickr: luclatulippe

There was a piece on The Guardian’s Comment is Free slot today,  hooked on a new study by Professor Timothy Golden, which drew the not-exactly ground-breaking conclusion that working at home isn’t easy.

Also mentioned is a report which stated that only 2.9% of the British working population works from home, and that increasing that figure could save the Treasury a whole stack of cash.

The writer states that this issue affects women disproportionately, given that we breed, and adds that as carer of a vulnerable adult she understands that it’s difficult to “fully concentrate on the needs of others while doing your paid work”.

But surely it’s a Quantum Leap (the likes of which Sam Beckett would be proud) to conclude that those who work from home and have dependents must be juggling the two commitments at any one time? As anyone who has tried to perform that amazing but futile feat of multi-tasking knows; that way madness lies.

Yet this piece would have you believe that working mums are feverishly sticking envelopes and ironing other people’s socks while our crazed dependents run amok.

“There is no question that men working from home are afforded more respect than their female counterparts,” it continues. Seriously? By whom, exactly? I beg to differ. The women I know who work from home are easily among the most talented and respected people I’ve encountered. They’re bright, ballsy and not to be messed with. And I like to count myself among them.

“Women working from home are often thought to be earning “pin money” or only in part-time employment.”

Now technically I’m in part-time employment by virtue of the fact that I have to collect my kids from school at 2pm, and I try not to work when they’re at home. Oh, but the pin money I make often matches my husband’s monthly salary. Which amounts to a fracking lot of pins.

Still, with children to distract us, surely we can’t possibly be getting very much work done? Actually the reverse is true – with the school pick-up (the most impenetrable deadline imaginable) always looming on the horizon and domestic divinity to be squeezed into our busy little lives, we’re pretty much superwomen.

‘Working from home’ used to be a euphemism for skiving off but times have changed – thank the heavens – and mums who work from home pull off slick balancing acts and are masters of time management. And sometimes we even look good, too.

Professor Golden interviewed 316 “tele-workers” for his study – but give me half a day on Twitter and I reckon I could find 317 home-workers who would paint a very different story. But of course, success stories of mums combining careers with child-rearing just aren’t sexy in certain quarters. Some would rather believe that we’re wearing pyjamas on the school run and watching Jeremy Kyle while we stuff envelopes. For pin money. Pfft.

Working at home is not for everyone but if you can’t take the heat then stay the hell away from the corner of the kitchen that this home-worker calls her office. When I had a glitzy PR job my brilliant boss would routinely order me to work at home, knowing that my best work could be relied upon to arrive when I was writing in my living room (yes, in my favourite pyjamas) with fresh air in abundance and music playing instead of phones ringing, free from the stuffiness and distractions of the office.

Above all, I’m frustrated that a non-parent who confesses to not being adept at working from home was selected to write a piece about mums who work from home. If I proposed to write a piece about what it’s like to be child-free I’d wager there’d be uproar.

So, naturally, I suggested that The Guardian should commission me forthwith to write a feisty riposte. I even promised I wouldn’t get distracted by my dependents whilst penning said retort. And of course the payment would come in handy. As pin money. 

Disappointingly, they did not respond to my email. But since they’re based in a proper office, where there are presumably no dependents running around to distract anyone from the business of doing real work, I wonder what excuse there can possibly be for not finding time to hit ‘reply’?

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10 thoughts on “Real women work from home

  1. Emily O says:

    Well said. I’ve been working from home for nearly 2 years and juggle it with looking after three children under 6. Phone calls aren’t easy but you get incredibly good at fitting work efficiently into small gaps, eg when Teletubbies is on. Work I need to really concentrate on is done in the evenings and I do have to put the children first. That said I’ve never missed a deadline, well maybe I did once but that’s because I forgot. People who write about mums trying to do mundane jobs at home clearly have no idea how times are moving on.

  2. Feisty Mama says:

    Hey thanks for reading and leaving a comment, Emily. I’m with you – I’ve never missed a deadline yet, and have found that freelancing from home has turned me into an efficiency machine. If I lack anything from this arrangement it’s enough downtime, which is why the whole picture of us ditzing about doing nothing drove me so crackers. Feel much better now it’s off my chest, though!

  3. To my mind the women working hardest are those who are working around the school run and then, if needed, after the children are in bed at night. When I did it, we had one at nursery part time and the baby with my full time.I found it very “difficult” and it made me unhappy because I felt I wasn’t giving enough of myself to either the business or the boys. Fast forward 2 years and I now work full time, from an office in the garden that we’ve had built for me and staff, with Lovely Bloke as a full time stay at home dad.

    It’s great and on the whole, it works, but what gets me is that people assume that because I work from home, I don’t work full time hours and that I’m only working for pin money.

    And whilst people who aren’t parents continue to write as though they are an authority on this, we’ll continue to have these sorts of articles written. Here’s hoping there’s a change shortly.

  4. Feisty Mama says:

    Thanks for commenting, Liz. Yep, I look forward to the return of the days when 7pm signals a few hours of chilling out instead of the second half of my working day. Good to hear another home-working success story and glad it has worked out well for you. The office in the garden is my dream… One day…

    • Thank you for the reply. I’m working tonight, fired up by some social media projects working really well, so I’m going above and beyond, but I don’t mind.

      I wanted to mention that I’m also pleased to hear people saying that they are making money from their work. Like it is a dirty word? It isn’t. I’m doing this because I’m earning more from it than Lovely Bloke would do if he was working full time at the moment. We’re being practical about it. I don’t know if it’s where I want to be in 10 years time, but we’ll work it out.

      The office in the garden came about because I had staff working with me and we needed the space. It’s been a worthwhile investment and I recommend it to everyone – not least because it gives us the space I and the team need and separates home and work as well !!

      • Feisty Mama says:

        Yep, I really need more of that work / life boundary. Rented house though, so my office in the garden won’t be appearing any time soon, sadly.

        Excellent point about the £££ too. I might not be making a fortune (yet, but wait will that six figure book deal arrives…) but I’m proud of the bacon I bring home and the pin money thing is just laughably archaic.

  5. This struck such a chord with me.

    Only last week I handed in my notice so that I could concentrate full time on my business. For the last six years I’ve been freelance as well as part-time employed and, to be honest, I’ve played at it. But in the summer I decided I’d try to build up my business with a view to working on it totally when our youngest goes to school in 2013. But I now have so much work I can’t fit it all in.

    I currently work a full day in the office, come home and do tea and bedtime with the kids, then sit down at my laptop until well past 9pm most nights. On my days off (ha!) I work during nap times, creche times and the odd stint of CBeebies. I can’t wait til I have three days a week to dedicate to my business. Three weeks and counting…

    Like you, the money I earn will easily match my husband’s salary and eventually I’ll spread my hours so I can do the school run at both ends of the day. Who wouldn’t want to be able to do that?

    Oh, and I too dream of a garden office and evenings (and weekends) to myself. So much to aspire to. Most people have no comprehension of the power of the Mummy Mafia. They underestimate us at their peril.

  6. Feisty Mama says:

    That’s brilliant, Louise, so great that things are working out to the extent that you’re going self-employed full-time. As I’ve said, the working mums I know are creative, ambitious and endlessly resourceful, and I just love these stories that prove that point. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Keeley says:

    Hi – I’ve just found your blog. I work for a public sector organisation based in London and 75% of staff at my level (we’re all trained professionals) work from home. I had to fight for it as they turned me down initially because I’ve moved up to the NW but it has been the best thing. I love my job. I love my son. I love taking him to preschool at 9am and picking him up at 4:15. I’m getting used to working in the evenings when I need to but I’m trying to do it less (having barely done so when I worked in the office in London).

    It works for all of us but I’m acutely aware that many mums and dads don’t get the chance to do it.

    (I’ve mentioned you in my blog today btw. I’m a complete newbie so I hope that’s okay)

    • Feisty Mama says:

      Thanks so much for reading, Keeley. I love hearing these stories of it all working out for women juggling careers with kids. Such a good counter to the old ‘you can’t have it all’ line that’s so prevalent now.

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